The Resilience of Restorers

restoration business development
January 7, 2021
Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” African Proverb

If you are reading this, it is likely that you overcame challenges, learned new things, pivoted, showed resilience, supported others, and more, after navigating 2020.

Although challenges and change are inevitable as we journey on into 2021, we should move forward with a new sense of confidence and accomplishment. After all, you did it! You, your team, and your company did it! You navigated a year full of endless challenges and should celebrate the achievement.

There are possibly endless lessons and reflections that we can learn from and share as an industry. I look forward to serving on the R&R Panel, Lesson’s from Covid-19, presented by The Experience University, February 10, 2021, learning the lessons of others, sharing my own, and building a solid future together as an industry.

As individuals, companies, and as an industry, there were many journeys, challenges, lessons, and reflections of the year, 2020. As we move forward and start our new year energized, focused on goals, and ready to take on the challenges and changes ahead, I share a couple of thoughts to keep the momentum going strong:

  • Celebrate Our Purpose: Although there may be a wide variety of ways we communicate and lead each other as purpose-driven organizations, it is easy to lose sight of our true purpose in the day today. I quote a long-time industry friend and instructor, Ron Valega, who reminds classes, “We are not just sucking poop! We are giving people clean and safe environments.” Unite as a team and celebrate the new year and future with a deeper appreciation than ever before of the great works of the cleaning, restoration, and remediation industries. After 2020, we know now more than ever that providing clean and safe environments for people to do their work and live their lives is a noble, rewarding profession to be proud of.
  • Post-2020 Huddle: In What the CAT Just Happened, it is encouraged to post-CAT huddle with the team and evaluates what went well and what could be done better next time. Take this opportunity to gather input from every member of the organization to give ideas and input on preparedness and the identification of opportunities.
  • Opportunities: Take this opportunity to think big and seek opportunities. Ajay Pangarkar, CTDP, FCPA, FCMA’s article, 3 Habits to Innovate During a Pandemic gives a great deal of inspiration and three keys to seizing the opportunity. “While tragic, this pandemic is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do things differently; to think differently. Prior to the pandemic, you know “normal times,” you could have far-fetched innovations, but if they were too extreme, no one would give you the time of day. But guess what? We can now not only dream of far-fetched ideas but are actually encouraged to do so. You now have implicit permission to try anything even marginally viable and no one will hold it against you for trying to make it a reality.” says Pangarkar.
  • Perspective: It is an excellent time to calibrate a very important meter, your Perspective Meter. Calibrating the perspective meter allows us to focus on what is important, see opportunities, and appreciate all the good by which we are surrounded.

My own 2020 experience was filled with successes and mistakes. There were a few times I had a moment and said, “I don’t know! This is my first Global Pandemic!” I would quickly gather myself and journey on, surrounded by an amazing team, supporters, and friends.

As for the lessons, like many of us, I learned quite a few and look forward to sharing them. I do know one thing for certain, although I always feel a sense of gratitude towards my co-workers and colleagues, it is this year more than ever; that this gratitude almost overwhelms me as I know that I would not be prepared and energized as I am now for 2021.

As we reflect on 2020, we must remember there was no “playbook”. Be proud, you did it!

Originally published in R&R Magazine

Top Tips For A Restoration Startup


restoration business development, startup restoration business development, startup restoration business growth
It has been more than 20 years since my husband and I started our full-service restoration company. Today, I have the privilege to meet and share tips with others who are starting up. The most common request? Lists for things such as contracts, equipment, procedures, any list to give a roadmap to success.

My husband and business partner dug out our original start-up to-do list from his files as we celebrated our 20-year company anniversary and it is now framed in the hallway. As we reviewed the list, we laughed at the simplicity of the handwritten document that included polo shirts, which is obviously of the utmost importance (ha-ha). Is it that simple?

Our company colors, green and gold, were less strategic and more out of a desire to reflect what is now known as Shared Value #10: We pride ourselves on our presentation and professionalism as a company. We had no money but wanted branded vehicles, but guess what? We already had a gold pickup truck and a green minivan! Voila – our company colors were born! No need to spend money on painting vehicles.

Armed with a vision, yellow legal pads filled with notes and ideas, a toddler, a baby on the way, and no income stream, we borrowed money, cashed in an $8,000 retirement account, and got started.

Today, the fleet of over 70 vehicles is gold with green lettering. We love our careers; the opportunities we have had to grow personally and professionally, the gratification of having served thousands, and the people we have the opportunity to work alongside of in our award-winning full-service restoration company.

My husband will reflect on the momentum of our company’s launch and sum it up very simply, “Failure was not an option.”

Twenty years later, here are our tips for starting up…

The Short List

There are many pathways that will lead your startup to Restoring Success. Your startup’s success is how you define it and there is not a right or a wrong. Embrace your vision and get moving. Here are some things to consider as you begin:

  • Why and Drive: Every business has a profit motive and building a financially strong company is a priority; however, restoration is about something bigger and it is important that there is a purpose, vision, and motivation that goes beyond profit. It is like many other businesses where you can easily lose money and will face all types of challenges. Many view restoration as a “recession-proof” industry without vulnerabilities. It is not.
    • Stay in touch with “why” you want to start a restoration company.
    • Drive for your success. An unwavering focus and drive to your goals will be an important fuel to power your launch.
    • Pros-Cons-Challenges: Our youngest son, who wants to be a restorer when he grows up, summed it up and explains his motivation. You can also pick up some tips on the moisture meters you will need for your start-up: A Restorer, Hero in our Community
  • Leverage your Assets: Assets may include but are not limited to: soft skills, technical skills, facilities, equipment, and relationships. In general, utilize your strengths and develop your weaknesses and/or surround yourself with individuals that complement your skills and soft spots.
    • Experience and Expertise: You may have experiences and knowledge from other jobs, businesses, education, and childhood you will be able to bring to your company. Form a foundation and make your company special and unique. I was an accountant who grew up with a father who was an insurance underwriter. My husband was a claims adjuster who grew up strapped to a roof by the age of 10 and helping his dad build cars. Regardless of your background before entering the industry, embrace your talents and know-how in your new company. Do not dismiss anything as irrelevant. One of my many favorite things about restoration is that it is somewhat of a melting pot of diverse individuals with unique backgrounds that bring expertise and apply it to their restoration career. The individuals and companies are special and can find foundations of success in their uniqueness.
    • Relationships: Leveraging your existing relationships will help you start your company. A marketing strategy is sound and important, but do not discount existing relationships. It may be customers of an existing business or friends and family. Consider your existing contacts and leverage them when building your business based on trust and long-term relationships.
  • Guidance and Information: Today, there are many options and resources that can help you get a solid start in your new company. Evaluate your needs and seek out the best fits for you to help you get started. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and draw on others who can add value. Remember, there is no right vs. wrong. There are many paths to success and different approaches to the business. Find what feels right and make it your own. Keep an open mind and learn different perspectives and approaches. When you can learn from the mistakes and successes of others, take it.
    • Franchise
    • Consultants
    • Training and resources
    • Software systems
    • Mentors and industry friends
  • Be Resourceful and Have Resources: You will not have everything and everyone you need out of the gate. Actually, that may never happen in restoration. Be prepared to think out of the box and prepare resources. Today, we have a beautiful textile restoration department with commercial and specialty equipment. When we started 20 years ago, my husband went to the laundromat and worked through the night.
    • Examples include but are not limited to: subcontractors, suppliers, rental companies, banks
    • Be prepared to solve problems along the way. Ask for help and use your drive to make things happen. In the early days, your ability to respond and deliver quality results will help propel your new company. I vaguely remember our first commercial loss in the early days. I do not remember the logistics; somehow, we assembled a large team, worked through the weekend, and had them open by Monday. I do remember feverishly scrubbing a special chair and thinking, “I want them to say, WOW when they walk in on Monday.”
  • Reinvest: When planning, and upon starting your new business, plan to continually reinvest. If your vision includes growing beyond your initial startup, you will need to invest in people, facilities, equipment, and systems.

Enjoy the journey and excitement. May starting a restoration company bring you much Restoring Success.

 

https://www.randrmagonline.com/articles/89197-tips-for-restoration-startups

Use Your Words

restoration business management, restoration business development, restoration business leadershipAs children are learning to speak and communicate, we often say, “use your words.” An important soft skill that, as adults and restoration professionals, we should never stop developing in ourselves and others. The following excerpt is a brief description from childcare.net as to the importance of developing this skill:

Use Your Words

Teaching young children to “use their words” is a well-known educational tool aimed at increasing kids’ communication skills and teaching kids how express their feelings rather than resort to physical means (i.e., hitting, biting, scratching, etc.) to resolve conflicts. All daycare staff should be trained in how and when to encourage children to use their words, and at which ages children need help in finding the right words to express their feelings. Teaching kids to use their words is also a developmental strategy in the realm of “emotional intelligence,” or “emotional coaching,” wherein parents and caregivers teach kids how to name their emotions and learn to deal with setbacks and change. Read the Entire Article Here

The ability to clearly articulate and use the right words is important in our service to others, individual success, and organizational goals. The words we choose and the ability to not just communicate but to communicate effectively in an emotionally intelligent manner helps us succeed in our day to day. In restoration, we are often faced with difficult situations and conversations, being equipped to use the “right” words can ultimately impact the outcome. We can teach, coach, learn and constantly improve much like many other skills.

This important skill helps us in our entire life, and these are a few areas to consider in our restoration companies:

  1. Customer Communications
  2. Management and Leadership
  3. General Internal Communications

Scenarios

Scenario 1

A customer wants the equipment pulled early and does not seem to care about the implications.

Response 1: Fine, but you know you will probably get mold!

Response 2: I will respect your wishes; however, I need to advise you that our company cannot deem the materials dry and I will need you to sign a waiver that you understand that there may be secondary damage up to and including microbial growth. 

Objective: A response that is respectful to a property owner’s wishes while protecting the company’s potential liability.

Scenario 2

On the first day of meeting a new customer, customer states that Joe in the office said all the work can be done by Friday. Caught off guard, it is not possible that the job is done Friday.

Response 1: Joe is totally disorganized and has no idea when the job can be done! Joe should not have told you that.

Response 2: Let us review the job together. I will touch base with Joe and follow up with you on the schedule.

Objective: Clarify the possible miscommunication and take control of the situation by managing the expectations of the customer so that there is the opportunity to complete their job to their satisfaction. Never should we disparage a coworker or the company. Frustrations with a coworker or supervisor should never be presented with a customer.

Scenario 3

A manager is told they must complete their weekly report. It is the second session addressing the lack of adherence to this company guideline.

Response 1: I give up! I am sick of telling you to do your report.

Response 2: You are either unable or unwilling to do your report. Let us discuss…

Objective: Start a productive conversation that can identify the root cause of the problem and potential solutions. While being firm and clear that the guideline must be adhered to, the opportunity to offer help to the manager may present itself. On the other hand, if the person is simply unwilling to do something that is very important to the organization’s process, the conversation may go in a different direction.

Scenario 4

A customer or business partner makes remarks or outward expressions of prejudice towards members of the team.

Response 1: Huh! Well….Ummm…

Response 2: Our team is a diverse team of restoration professionals and if that is of concern for you, it may be best to work with another company on your project.

Objective: Deliver a clear and professional response that is reflective of your company’s values. Core values are those that are not compromised.

These scenarios are just a few of the many difficult situations and conversations that we can find ourselves in on any given day. Our abilities to handle them by using the “right” words can determine the outcome.

The following are a few tips to consider in developing this skill:

Self-Awareness: Have you ever reflected on a situation or conversation and thought, “I should have said…?” Do not dismiss this thought. See it through and play out the words that may have led you to a better outcome. Next time, in a similar situation, you may have just the right words ready to confidently articulate.

Coaching: In the scenario, where the team member called a co-worker, “totally disorganized” to the customer, the job ended with a bad customer review stating specifically that the company is “disorganized”. You investigate the matter. You learn of the scheduling and communication conversation. This is a great opportunity to talk it through and coach the individual to handle the frustration and conversation differently next time.

Practice and Script: Go through scripts and practice with the team. Utilize the most frequent scenarios like the customer who wants their equipment pulled early to engage the team and equip with the communication tools to succeed. Not only will this help everyone best prepare for the situation that they will likely encounter; it will also help develop their skill in general. It is much easier to think through a situation and find the right words when you do not have the pressure of the moment.

Learn from others: Be observant and constantly learn. You are constantly surrounded by people who at any given point articulate something extremely well. I often make note of others use of words and think, “Wow, that was well said!” One of my favorite’s that I have passed on to others came from my dad, “You are either unable or unwilling to…” referred to above in scenario 3.

Our word choices and ability to articulate them are a valuable skill, something we should constantly develop, and can ultimately determine or influence outcomes. As a side note, our culture and values set the tone. Even if it is a script or words that were practiced, they are always best delivered when they are true, sincere, and from our hearts. The reality is that “using our words” is not always easy as it may sound. Never stop learning how to “use your words.” Best wishes for much Restoring Success.

Originally published in R&R Magazine

November 5, 2020
Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

The New Age of Restoration Training

One of the greatest challenges in our industry has been finding “good” people. Once you do find a good one, they still likely need training and on-boarding, the next challenge. The year 2020 will go down in history as the year of challenges and it is in the spirit of overcoming these obstacles that rapid developments and opportunities present themselves. Training, employee development, and on-boarding solutions that are now at the forefront of our industry and may be the keys to overcoming many of our age-old challenges including but not limited to:

  • Technical Training
  • Soft Skills, Operations, Management Training
  • Employee Engagement and Development
  • On-boarding
  • Accessibility of Training
  • Time/Resources/Money
  • And more

The Journey of the Restoration Technical Institute

As I reflect on the last six months and how it has impacted training for the Restoration Technical Institute, the individuals, and the companies in our industry, I cannot help but to think of one of my favorite stories about a farmer, “Good Luck, Bad Luck, Who Knows?”. As events unfold, we do not know what is next, we do not know the end of the story; it’s not a single event that will define an outcome, but rather a series of events.

2018: We began “dabbling” in the world of on-line training. We had long-term goals and visions. However, for the next two years, our focus and development were on our in-person programs and hands-on approaches to training.

February 2020: Our training center was full of cheer as we held packed classes of IICRC WRT (Water Restoration Technician) and IICRC ASD (Applied Structural Drying).

March 2020: We had to cancel five months of classes that were planned more than a year ago. Thankfully, earlier in the year, RTI teamed up with ISSA to provide training and education for the cleaning and restoration industries.

April 2020: RTI recognized that ISSA offers a very robust Online Learning Institute, which is stockpiled with courses and content that is needed by everyone in cleaning and restoration. Although we have been working informally with ISSA for several years, the time came to go to another level. We are now a training partner with ISSA.

ISSA has a history of developing content and certification, with self-paced online learning. CMI, a division of ISSA, offers a high-quality learning management system (LMS) that is full of content and tools to engage subscribers and manage the learning process. Cleaning, disinfection, sales, management, and safety are just a few of the related subject matters that ISSA and their divisions offer. It is with great excitement that we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with and add to the vast amount of resources and expertise available through ISSA and its divisions.

May 2020: As the IICRC adapted, many of our courses became approved for online live stream. We hosted our first online, live-stream water class.

June – September 2020: The last several months have been an amazing whirlwind with the objective of offering accessible and affordable training and resources globally. The highlight reel of the last couple of months includes but is not limited to, what I describe as our continuous learning, adapting, and pivoting to the world, opportunities, and most importantly to the demand and expectations of those we serve:

  • LMS Subscription: Working diligently on content and curriculum to serve our industries.
  • Instructional Design: Learning about the technology, approaches, and the discipline of instructional design. Collaborating with instructional designers to develop courses and content that are effective for today’s learners.
  • Continuously evolving our live offerings both on-line and in person.
  • Self-Paced Course Development: Creating content, videos, and courses to present.

Learning Management Systems & Self-Paced Learning

In a Fresh Look at Online Training, you will gain some insight to the general training landscape, the benefits and some tips to utilize the new opportunities available to you and your teams. Although e-learning is not new (in 1924 the first “automatic teacher” was presented), if you have some reservations about the effectiveness of self-paced learning and learning management systems, I defer to many other industries in a variety of disciplines who have successfully utilized this approach and have enjoyed positive outcomes and some statistics:

Events that initially seemed like bad luck for industry training have turned into really, good luck. Learning management systems and self-paced learning are two viable solutions to some of our industry’s greatest hurdles. If you have not experienced these types of training approaches, it is not what one may imagine when you think of a recorded type course or training. It is not just a recorded voice and power point slides. Some of the elements you may see within this realm include but are not limited to:

  • Gamification: Content may be presented in interactive ways that help teach and engage the learner.
  • Knowledge Checks: Interactive and well-timed knowledge checks are used to engage the learner, give confidence in the understanding of the materials, and reinforce important learning objectives.
  • Video Demonstrations: Videos help to mix the media and can be used to communicate and tie together a variety of topics. Video demonstrations are particularly helpful to present practical applications and demonstrate tactile skills.
  • Micro-learning: As an approach, you may find content divided into small sections of approximately 10 minutes or less. This approach is getting a great deal of attention based on a variety of results and feedback from learners.
  • Experienced instructors guiding learners through curriculum and demonstrations.
  • Soon, expect to hear more about virtual and augmented reality as the technology and its availability is rapidly evolving.

The training world is evolving rapidly and could help us all achieve more, Restoring Success.

Originally Published: R&R Magazine Online

Transparency in Our Restoration Companies

restoring success, restoration management, restoration business management, restoration business leadershipChelsea Mihalko and Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

 

Last month’s Restoring Success, Morale and Engagement Built on a Foundation of Trust, we explored the importance of trust and the leadership role in fostering a culture of positive morale and engagement. Stephen Covey’s Speed of Trust presents 13 key behaviors that are instrumental to us as individuals and leaders in building and fostering trust. One of these behaviors is to create transparency:

Behavior #3: Create Transparency

Be real and genuine and tell the truth in a way that people can verify. The opposite is to obscure, and the counterfeit is an illusion of pretending things are different than they are. You can establish trust quickly by being open and authentic, erring on the side of disclosure and not having hidden agendas.”

Transparency is a broad concept and behavior in which some may struggle on finding the right and appropriate level of in their organization. As a side note, I firmly believe that this behavior and competency is most important in positively leading the team through 2020, the pandemic, and the continuous challenges. Metrics seem to be a common area where the best-intentioned of leaders have concerns. It is important to consider that not demonstrating the appropriate level of transparency, even with numbers, can have a detrimental unintended consequence.

A few considerations:

  • Trust: If we agree with Covey, that transparency is a key behavior of trust and that it is the leader’s job to extend trust first; we are behaving contrary to building the foundation of trust when we are not transparent.
  • Accountability: It is difficult to hold others accountable without giving them access to the appropriate information.
  • Open and Constructive Feedback: Transparency is a key behavior to have a culture that embraces open and constructive feedback on job and company performance in the spirit of continuous improvement.

After a great conversation about trust and transparency with a restoration company leader and friend, I asked her to share her thoughts and perspective.

Chelsea Mihalko Trimbath presents the following on trust in our restoration companies and being transparent with numbers:

What do most relationships thrive on? What drives loyalty? What is stability built on? The answer is TRUST. Stability, honesty, loyalty, drive and motivation are all qualities managers wish to see in their employees. These qualities do not necessarily exist or at their peak on the first day with a company. If we are lucky, after years of service, these qualities develop, and the relationship built on trust grows.

Our goal as leaders should be to build trust with our employees, to show that not only do we trust them and that they can trust us, but also, that we are dedicated to seeing them excel in every aspect of their life. One way to accomplish this type of relationship building is through transparency. Now wait, before you roll your eyes, let’s dig deeper.

Transparency comes in all different forms at all different levels. We cannot expect some of the people in our organizations to understand what overhead consists of just as we cannot expect some people to understand how to perfectly install a wood floor. Members of the team contribute to the organization in a variety of unique ways but leading someone blindly is a path to failure. Failure not only showing in your bottom line, but also, failing the individuals by not motivating or giving clear objectives. Transparency can be instrumental in engaging and holding the team accountable.

As a leader of an organization, it’s our job to know the direction of the company and have clear goals along the way. Members of the team should have clarity of objectives and transparency in information necessary to reach and manage their individuals and company goals.

Many goals, quotas or milestones are measured in numbers in our business.

  1. Labor Hours: Increase productivity through responsibility by being transparent.

Labor hour goals are simple numerical goals that can be conveyed throughout the organization. If a certain task should take 5 hours to complete to hit average profit goals, we can set the expectation as 5 hours. A motivated and skilled employee that can finish the job in 3 hours can still be motivated by the 5-hour max and enjoy the satisfaction of beating the goal and potentially increasing his value to the organization. Being transparent with the allowed maximum hours gives individuals the opportunity to apply themselves and work towards the goal and potentially create drive and innovation to complete the work in the most efficient and effective way possible. Providing employees with the opportunity and information to make decisions that impact themselves and the company cultivates trust.

  1. Employee Cost – Build relationships through genuine understanding

Have you ever had someone come and ask for a raise that was just given an extra week of vacation and the latest new model iPhone? Does that person truly know what they cost the company? Do you really know what that person values as an employee? Another opportunity for transparency! An employee should know and understand the value of what they are being paid including their wage, benefits and perks, including but not limited to: vacation, health insurance, retirement, life insurance, phone, vehicle (including gas allowances and insurance), computer, etc. Educating the team and being transparent regarding the costs of things can create a better platform for open discussions. For example, during a performance review, there may be an opportunity to learn that someone highly values their family time and prefers additional vacation days rather than a monetary raise. These meaningful conversations will help build a culture of trust and a depth of care from management.

  1. Overall Profits – Increase innovation and motivation

This one is scary for a lot of business owners. They want to keep their numbers under tight wraps and closed away for only their eyes. But going back to the above point, how can we expect our managers to hit company goals without giving them all the information to get there? Direct project managers will be better able to control their jobs if they have access to job profitability numbers, budgets and goals. They will be more equipped to negotiate material pricing, providing budget selections and understanding labor hours to meet profitability goals. Transparency on labor hours inflated costs (per hour cost per employee + benefits) so they are better able to choose who will do the best trade on each job. Transparency to our estimators and project managers about the cost per lead (marketing), any software or management fees per job (overhead). If owners plan to place high standards on their managers, the managers will perform better with a general understanding of business operations and costs. And while owners may choose to keep certain numbers under wraps, profits, expenses and overhead per job should be direct and easily accessible so managers can be checking in constantly. Providing this open communication will foster innovation and allow for more creative flows to happen. Mangers will feel empowered knowing they have the authority to make decisions that directly affect them and the company, their confidence and motivation will grow along with the numbers.

Regardless of your position about transparency, it is an important behavior to reflect upon and consider. For many reasons, it may be one of the most difficult behaviors as a leader and one that causes concern or fear. If you have a sense that being more transparent can help foster trust and a positive culture, take one small step at a time.

https://www.randrmagonline.com/articles/89054-transparency-in-our-restoration-companies